Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is psychology?
Psychology is defined as "the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context." It looks at how human beings, as social creatures, go about dealing with everything from sexual desires to decision making to mental health care. There are different psychology departments that each have their own discipline of psychology that they specialize in. Psychology is an academic field that has very vast and immense scope. It is a field of study related to human behavior and mental health, of conscious and unconscious phenomena, feeling, and thought. Many people decide to go in-depth into the study of the history of psychology or pursue a degree in psychology today because it can give insight into the way that people operate or behave, and it gives a lot of insight to human decision making and personal growth. It can also be useful in an abundance of careers. Throughout the history of psychology, professionals in the field seek an understanding of the emergent properties of the human brain, and all the phenomena that are linked to these properties. Psychology as a social science aims to understand individuals and groups through the establishment of general principles and by researching specific cases. Research has always been at the very core in the history of psychology. Studying psychology doesn't necessarily mean that you'll become a psychologist, but it is a possibility. If you do choose to study the history of psychology or train to become a psychologist, counselor, therapist, or social worker, you will have a rewarding career ahead of you.
What does a psychologist do?
Depending on what kind of psychologist they are, a psychologist may do many different things. The term psychologist covers a wide array of different mental health professionals and researchers. Throughout the history of psychology, experts attempt to understand the role of human mental functions and social behavior, while also exploring underlying biological and psychological processes of cognitive behaviors and functions. Since psychology is the study of the mind as it pertains to human behavior, anyone who decides to study the history of psychology or who falls into this field of research or practice is considered a psychologist. As a result, there are many different job descriptions for different types of psychologists. When most people think of a psychologist, the image of a therapist comes to mind: an expert in the connection between mind and behavior who helps people with mental illness or mental disorders, or who talks through problems and solutions with their patients. A clinical psychologist for example, can meet with patients for counseling or therapy. A clinical psychologist uses their knowledge of the connections between mind and behavior, as well as their grounding in theories of human behavior as it relates to brain function and mental processes, in order to offer treatment to patients. So, clinical psychology practitioners usually spend a lot of their time meeting with patients and delivering treatment in the form of therapy.
However, not all psychologists focus on providing treatment to patients. They could also choose to engage in the research side of the field. These psychologists study and are often involved in psychological research experiments that are constructed to collect hard data that provides insight into people’s mental processes and cognitive behavioral patterns. These psychological science experiments are tested and reviewed by the academic and research arm of the American Psychological Association and published as psychological research. This type of psychology is known as experimental psychology.
Experimental psychology often uses human subjects to test different theories and schools of thought that have been put forth to explain the mental processes underlying human behavior. Through experimental psychology, psychologists study different ways and means to both explain mental processes and treat patients who may be suffering from mental health issues. Experimental psychology also provides a way for psychologists to better understand how posited theories about topics such as mental processes, child development, human behavior, and public health in general play out in the real world.
There are many different kinds of therapists, psychologists, and counselors. A marriage and family therapist, for example, focuses on studying family structures or family-related concerns and working with systems. A child or pediatric psychologist, on the other hand, focuses on childhood development and working with children. A psychologist can work in a private practice setting, in an inpatient or outpatient facility, in a hospital setting, and more, according to the American Psychology Association. Psychology careers vary dramatically depending on what you want to accomplish in your working life and what field of psychology you decide to pursue.
What are some of the different fields of psychology?
According to the American Psychology Association, some of the different fields of psychology are:
What's it like to study psychology in school?
When you study psychology in school, you can go into a variety of different careers. In fact, studying psychology is more popular now than ever before, with more and more colleges and universities adding psychology departments to their campuses. Studying the different fields or taking interest in the history of psychology does not necessarily mean that you'll become a psychologist, though you may end up doing something related to mental health. A lot of students may take up interests in studying the history of psychology, or the different fields of psychology. The best place to start if you are considering studying psychology is to take an introduction to psychology course. You can even study psychology online from the beginning, before things get too niche or technical in your psychology program. Understanding human behavior and psychology can be helpful in a variety of jobs, including psychology-oriented research positions, helping professions, or something completely unrelated. Psychology departments can prepare people for a whole host of different career paths.
Academic psychology is a dedicated field, so studying it requires concentrated effort. However, if you're passionate about it, your classes will likely be highly enjoyable. Getting to study the history of psychology would give an in-depth understanding of why humans behave the way they do. If you are looking to get a master's degree or a doctorate degree, studying psychology will be your main focus for 4-10 years. Different psychology departments have different areas of focus, so it’s important to research several psychology departments before making a final decision about where you’ll study. Psychology today is an important and ever-growing domain, so if you're interested in going into it, you're making a good choice and are likely to help many people in your career.
The word psychology, referring to the study of the mind and behavior of human beings and animals, is an interesting aspect of social and family life. It is important because the fabric of the society is made of humans who are different in thoughts and way of life as no two humans are the same. Psychology today, continues to be a growing field for career growth. In family life, it is very important to the extent that it can help couples understand important and pertinent issues which may be bothering them including their communication and sexual desires. Psychology today has been expanded to the field of comparative psychology. Comparative psychology focuses on the scientific study and behavioral patterns of non-human animals, even going as far as studying insects and primates, as can be seen from different documentaries we watch daily. Psychology professionals also study the behavioral relationship with animals and human species.
What can a psychologist help you with?
According to the American Psychology Association, a psychologist through psychological science can help you with an abundance of issues related to mental health, interpersonal relationships, family, work, school, and any other concerns that arise in your life. You may see a counselor one on one, or you may engage in group therapy, couples counseling, or family therapy. The kind of counseling you pursue depends on your individual needs. Every psychologist is unique; some have an impeccably gentle approach, whereas others use tough love. Some will present information to you in a way that’s cut-and-dry, whereas others will let you come to your own conclusions. A therapist, counselor, or psychologist will nearly always have an area that is their specialty. Some may focus on trauma, whereas another could focus on family therapy or relationships. Psychologists must stay informed on emerging science related to psychology so that they can help people in the best way possible. If you see a psychologist that doesn’t click with you, don’t be afraid to seek a better fit.
If you’re looking for a more medical approach or any kind of treatment or advice involving medication, you’ll have to talk to a psychiatrist. Psychiatry and psychology are similar, but there are some differences between psychiatry and psychology. The biggest difference is that psychiatrists are trained and licensed to prescribe and administer medications, while psychologists are not.
If you need help with mental health concerns or other life issues, a counselor or therapist at ReGain can help. Online counseling is an excellent way to get the help that you need from a therapist, psychologist, or counselor at an affordable cost. In the United States, mental health treatment can be very expensive which makes it hard to find a therapist, so affordability is a wonderful benefit of remote counseling. The best thing about online counseling is that you can access it from the privacy of your own home. Whether you're dealing with a mental health condition, relationship concerns, or something else, a mental health provider can help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are some explanations about the different types of psychology?
Psychology today is a very vast field. Psychiatry and psychology cover a wide array of psychology departments. There are about sixteen different types of psychology and branches of psychology according to the American Psychology Association. As a whole, psychology is the study of the mind as it pertains to human behavior. There are many different applications and branches of psychology, even as defined by the American Psychological Association. While not all of the branches of psychology are equally popular, it is pretty straightforward if you want to find a therapist in any of these branches.
These different types of psychology with the aid of psychological science focus more specifically on different aspects of the mind and human behavior. It’s not too difficult to find a therapist in these sixteen common fields of psychology. Here are the sixteen most common types of psychology today:
Psychoanalytic approach- this form of psychological testing has its roots in the theories of Sigmund Freud. It suggests that abnormal traits and behavioral patterns arise from unconscious thoughts, desires, and memories. Therapists who use this form of psychological testing analyze feelings related to memories, thoughts, and dreams.
Behavioral approach- the behavioral approach deals with observable behaviors by targeting behaviors specifically.
Medical Approach- this approach in psychological testing focuses on the biological causes of mental challenges. Emphasizes psychological science in that an understanding of disorders' underlying causes could be associated with genetics, infections, chemical imbalances, etc.
Development in psychological science often follows a predictable pattern. But sometimes, things go off course. Parents may often focus on milestones which is displayed at some point in kids’ development. The focus is mainly physical, cognitive, social/emotional and communicational. Psychology developmental psychologists can provide support in these stages;
Prenatal; behavioral psychologists at this stage seeks to understand how early influences could impact later phases of growth. This looks at primary reflexes and how they emerge before birth.
Early childhood- the period between infancy and early childhood is a time of growth and drastic changes. Physical, cognitive and emotional growth occurs during this critical stages and psychological science focuses on helping kids reach their full potential at this point.
Middle childhood- the period between early childhood and middle childhood may be considered short term because it’s only difference of few years. Nevertheless, the period sees physical maturation and increased social influence. Social psychologists note that at these ages, kids begin to form friendships and build a sense of self.
Adolescence- teenage years according to psychological science is when psychological turmoil ensue. These years, like Erik Erikson noted leads to identity formation. It’s a period of exploring new identities, sexual desire, and testing limits.
Early adulthood- marked by the formation and maintenance of relationships. Milestones like formation of bonds, sexual desire, intimacy, close friendships and family are more pronounce. People who are able to build reliable relationships have connectedness and social support. Others struggling with these may combat emotional difficulties.
Middle Adulthood- this is the center stage of life where people develop a sense of purpose.
Older Adults- the senior years are years of increased health concerns. People who have lived a good life emerge with a deep sense of wisdom with a readiness for face the rest of their lives.
These specific areas of psychology are recognized by the American Psychological Association, which also notes that the field of psychology, both in terms of research and career opportunities, is on the rise. Other emerging fields in psychological science include;
Comparative psychology- this aspect of psychology deals with behavior change in different species. It is particular about how animals and human behaviors differ. Current events suggest that studying rats and dogs’ behavioral patterns and responses could have specific psychological impacts on how humans behave. These observations have proven important to psychological studies.
Aviation psychology- aviation psychology studies the behavior of pilots, flight crew members, and other aviation personnel. Psychological science, through aviation, researches airline safety concerning developing training equipment and employee selection. For instance, aviation psychology could develop psychological assessment or psychological testing for screening applicants seeking positions. Since the nature of their jobs requires specialization and delicacy, the selection process should produce individuals with behavioral health spectrums in terms of stability, coping, etc. An aviation psychologist may likely utilize their knowledge of psychological science to ensure that decisions are made based on current events and possible behavior change.
Consumer psychology- also known in psychological science as marketing psychology, consumer psychology researches consumer behavior and marketing strategies. This is done to promote businesses while helping business owners understand how to best respond to consumers’ needs. Ultimately, the business devises new means to increase the purchase of goods and services. Additionally, these psychologists employ the analysis of decision making while researching buyers’ response to marketing messages.
Consumer psychology is concerned with the development of marketing messages that can impact the buyer’s emotions. Also, it identifies specific audiences and develops target products that could appeal to these sets of individuals. In generic terms, the psychological services delivered by experts in this field use market research surveys, psychological testing, experiments, observations, and consumer focus groups.
Cross-cultural psychology- in this field, psychologists seek to understand how people vary across cultures and how certain cultural affiliations may influence behavior. The psychologists conduct several tests that often explore how behavior may be universal or varied in cultures. For instance, cross-cultural psychology may investigate how older adults in parenting styles differ between collectivist and individualist cultures.
Engineering psychology- focus on enhancing human abilities by improving machines, technology, and workspace. While an aspect of this psychological science turns to psychological testing in terms of research, another works on applying psychological principles. Such applications may be seen in developing new technologies that could help health psychologists with patient diagnosis, recovery, and more. Also, they could help refine products, including phones and motor vehicles.
Military psychology- this practice is in a military setting. It includes treating soldiers with mental illnesses or emotional distress. The research includes several aspects of military life and helps military veterans transition back to civilian life. Some military experts act as counseling psychologists while others perform psychotherapy (cognitive psychologists). Some may apply their knowledge in psychological science towards combating stress, training, decision making, etc.
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
Both psychologists and psychiatrists are experts in the study of the mind. However, the biggest difference between an American psychologist and a psychiatrist is that psychiatrists are certified medical doctors. This means that, if the need arises, a psychiatrist is licensed and able to prescribe medicine in addition to the other treatments and therapies that they are qualified to offer according to the American Psychological Association. On the other hand, while an American psychologist is licensed with the American Psychological Association to offer treatments and therapies, they are limited to treatment options that don’t involve prescription medication. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional.
Psychiatrists could work in any of the following environment;
A mental health psychologist can treat people with but is not limited to;
The diagnosis of these conditions may be made via;
They could also prescribe;
Electroconvulsive therapy- an application of electrical currents to the brain. The treatment is mostly reserved for severe depression when patients don’t respond to other forms of treatment.
Light therapy that uses artificial light for seasonal depression, especially in places where the patient does not get a lot of sunlight.
Differences in Education- psychology education for psychiatrists and psychologists differ in training requirements and few psychology courses. Psychiatrists graduate with either Doctor of medicine (MD) or Doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). After either degree, there is a written exam for licensed practice. Before this, they must complete four years of residency to gain experience in hospitals and outpatient settings. Then, they must take an exam by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to be board-certified. Recertification is done after every ten years.
Psychologists have graduate school experience and must complete doctoral-level training. They must also have one of these degrees; Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Earning either takes about four to six years, and when this is done, another two years of training follows. After this comes the licensing examination in the respective state. They can get specialty in the following areas;
If you need to find a therapist, you may ask your primary caregiver for recommendations. Or, you could try online platforms where first consultations are almost always free.
Is a psychologist a therapist?
To put it simply, therapists can be psychologists, but not all psychologists are therapists. Psychology is the study of the mind as it pertains to human behavior. It takes into account the mental processes, brain function, and intentions that go along with decision making and problem solving in a variety of contexts and relationships. So, a psychologist is someone who participates in the research, practice, and application of psychology and psychology related fields. These fields can include many different facets of social psychology, including mental processes, child development, human behavior, personality traits, and public health in general.
Therapists in the field of psychology today focus mostly on the practice and application of psychology as it relates to treating their patients. Therapists who use what they know about psychology to treat people who suffer from mental illness, mental disorders, or any other psychological issue, are known as clinical psychologists. Clinical psychology is the application of psychology – along with broader scientific knowledge of mental processes, personality traits, and brain function – to treat mental illness and mental disorders. When it comes to mental health psychology, and specifically clinical psychology is a great treatment tool. The psychologists who practice clinical psychology are called clinical psychologists, but most people know them as “therapists.”
Is the psychologist a doctor?
While clinical psychologists are trained professionals in the field of mental health and clinical psychology, they are not doctors. Respectable clinical psychologists are accredited or certified by the American Psychological Association, but they aren’t doctors. This means that even though they can offer a wide variety of treatment options for their patients, they aren’t able to prescribe medicine. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are certified medical doctors, which means they’re able to prescribe medication if the need arises. This is the biggest difference between clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. It’s also usually much easier to find a therapist than it is to find a psychiatrist. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional.
Should I see a psychologist or psychiatrist for anxiety?
If you think that you’re suffering from anxiety seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist is a great way to start seeking treatment. It’s important to find a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist to help you with mental health issues, just like you would find a doctor for physical health issues. Psychologists and psychiatrists have extensive training in the human behavior and mental processes related to mental health issues such as anxiety. Plus, they are certified with the American Psychological Association to provide a variety of treatment options for anxiety.
These days, it is fairly easy to find a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist; you can even find a therapist who can meet with you online or over the phone.
Should I go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist?
When you’re looking for mental health treatment options, the first step is deciding whether you’ll choose to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. While both psychiatrists and psychologists are well-versed in clinical psychology and certified with the American Psychological Association, there is one big difference between the treatments that a psychiatrist can provide. This is because psychiatrists, in addition to being clinical psychologists, are also doctors. This means that a psychiatrist is able to prescribe medicine for a patient if the treatment requires. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional.
Early psychology checks can be the key to getting better. Some people are in the habit of allowing issues to linger for long before they attend to them. Early psychology checks however, provide the needed and effective solutions to issues regarding mental health such as bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic depression, causing extreme mood swings. Talking to a professional in the field of psychology today will be a great step towards getting the help you need.
What do psychologists do in a day?
A psychologist’s day-to-day will look different based on what kind of psychologist they are. For example, someone working in experimental psychology will likely spend the bulk of their day at a university or research institution. There, they will teach the history of psychology, design, conduct, and analyze the results of experiments and studies pertaining to human thought processes and behavior.
The more common image of a psychologist, though, is that of a clinical psychologist. This is the popular image people get, of someone like Sigmund Freud or a psychoanalyst. A clinical psychologist will spend a lot of time talking to their patients and doing therapy. Based on the specialization of the clinical psychologist, therapy can take many forms. However, in the history of psychology, most psychologists would usually employ a method that largely involves talking to their patient, asking pointed guiding questions, taking notes, making observations, and analyzing the patient’s feedback.
Do psychologists actually help?
From the history of psychology till date, psychologists emphasized that those who seek treatment from a psychologist, counselor, or therapist report that the treatment does, in fact, help. People seek help from psychologists and other mental health professionals for any number of reasons. In most cases, the psychologist will start with a consultation, no matter what kind of issue you’re seeking help for. During this consultation, the psychologist will ask pointed and specific questions about the issues that you’re seeking help for. Then, based on your answers, the psychologist will be able to recommend a course of treatment.
Remember, if you’re looking for a psychologist to help, it will take time to see the effects of the treatment. It usually takes several sessions before those seeking help reports actual improvement in their situation, or at least in their perception of the situation. Patience is key when it comes to seeking help from a psychologist.
Men and women who seek the help of psychologists must understand that psychologists rely on psychology studies and behavioral research from studies in behavioral science to help their patients. While their diagnosis and solutions take time, it is not going to be magical. From the history of psychology, psychology studies provide data from analytical psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, medical psychology, evolutionary psychology, biological psychology, engineering psychology, political psychology, human psychology, psychiatry psychology, basic psychology, animal psychology for animal behavior and understanding animal emotions, and many others to be able to offer incisive solutions to many problems and challenges facing humanity.
What is the history of psychology?
Throughout history psychology has appeared as humans, as psychological science, as social creatures, have tried to make sense of the human behaviors and patterns of thought in the world around them. The word “Psychology” is the study of the human mind and behavior in a specific context. Since then, it’s widely accepted that psychology seeks to understand the behaviors and personality traits of people, as well as looking for causes and treatments for mental illnesses.
The history of psychology dates back to the ancient Greeks. The Greeks defined psychology studies as a branch of philosophy that mostly looked at human beings, their personality traits, and their decision making, until it became a separate field on its own as experimental psychology studies started in 1879 in Germany by Wilhelm Wundt. The history of psychology also explains that the first psychology laboratory was developed by Wilhelm Wundt who began to call himself a psychologist not long after that. Applied psychology became a thing soon after as more scientists began to study, research and expand on different psychology topics and psychology programs ranging from different psychology science fields such as medical psychology, biological psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, humanistic psychology, child psychology, comparative psychology, applied psychology, psychology of teaching and other topics related to psychology.
The history of psychology was heavily influenced by the application and training in clinical psychology, as well. It can be seen that Hugo Munsterberg wrote about the application of psychology fields such as law, while John Dewey did his study of psychology educational theory in the 1890s. Sigmund Freud also birthed the psychoanalysis field of psychology and brought the theories out of the psychology lab and into the common public eye. Psychoanalysis focuses on an independent study of the mind. The limitation of psychoanalysis perspectives in psychology, gave rise to a new world of psychology known as humanistic psychology. The principles of psychology in relation to humanistic psychology is that perspective of psychology that has to do with an individual’s drive to self-actualization which borders on one’s expression and creativity as it focuses on positive human potentials. Biological psychology is one of the principles of psychology, called Behavioral science, which focuses on using biology principles to study physiological and genetic behavior in humans and animals. From the history of psychology, humanistic psychology and biological psychology started in the mid-20th century. Also, the history of psychology shows that applied psychology was official in 1908 after Hugo Munsterberg attended Harvard. Applied Psychology was inculcated in the Harvard Psychological Laboratory. Throughout the history of psychology till today, psychology courses on the field and history of psychology are being offered at Harvard for students. Some of the psychology study courses are social psychology, developmental psychology, clinical science and cognition, brain and behavior psychology.
Now, it’s fairly common to find a therapist. More and more people are studying in psychology departments, and each psychology department is producing more research each year. Thanks to the prevalence of psychology in the world today, it isn’t difficult to find a therapist or get help with mental health issues that were unknown or misunderstood in years past. This is because psychology as the science of human behavior has become widely accepted and better understood in the past few decades.